chapter  12
12 Pages

POST-COLONIAL FEMINISM AND THE VEIL: THINKING THE DIFFERENCE

S I N C E T H E Iranian Revolut ion o f 1979, the issue of the veil has been the topic o f heated debate in Arab countries, particularly those that witnessed strong fundamentalist movements. The fact that Iranian Islamicists who took power in Iran sanctioned the veil and penalized those women who chose not to wear it was either a seductive or, alternatively, a terrifying reminder to women in other Mus l im countries of what it might be like for women under Islamicist rule. In countries like Jordan, Algeria and Egypt, where fundamentalist movements have mobilized many followers including large numbers of women whose adoption of the veil signified their initiation into the movement, the question of the legal sanction o f the veil has aroused intense reactions from supporters and opponents alike. In this paper I try to explore the question o f the veil from the complicated perspective o f an Arab feminist, who both rejects the veil as a personal choice but also recognizes its empowering and seductive effect on Arab women. M y discussion wi l l be limited to

the veil as it plays itself out in an Arab context, since this is what I am most familiar with. The analysis might, or might not, be true in other non-Arab Mus l im countries. Also, my 'analysis' w i l l be more o f a personal journey o f exploration and reflection, than a traditional academic analysis or a strictly scientific one.